#4 Lee-Davis at #1 Atlee
Kickoff: 7:30pm (Airtime, 7pm on WHAN, 102.9 FM, 1430 AM and on the internet here at HanoverCountySports.org)
The Confederates have won their last six over Atlee, including the 30-20 upset victory one week ago in Mechanicsville that gave Lee-Davis their first playoff berth since 1999. How much of tonight's game will be psychological? One distinct advantage now in Atlee's favor is homefield, as the Raider program has built one of the most fan-friendly, rabid homefield advantages in local high school football. Friday nights at Atlee are an experience, not just a game.
On the field? Lee-Davis must once again contain the twin-pronged attack of quarterback Ruben Rucker, his bevy of receivers, especially Will McCombs who caught nine balls for 99 yards last Friday, and running back Jarred Hall, who looks to bounce back tonight after only gaining 65 yards on 20 carries last week. Meanwhile, Confederates quarterback Israel Vaughan must step up once again to show he can consistently perform with the top signal-callers in the Capital District (Rucker, Malcolm Bell, Sam Rogers and Maurice Canady) after having his best performance of 2011 in last week's victory. Tyrell Eaton played brilliantly last week and must produce again. More output from Chris Simpson in the running game (54 yards last week) would help keep Rucker and Company off the field.
BOTTOM LINE: Adjustments. After playing seven nights ago, it's all about adjustments. Homefield will be huge for Atlee, who are 5-0 in their friendly confines, including wins over Hanover and Highland Springs. The Raiders want to play at home again the day after Thanksgiving. Lee-Davis just wants to play again next week either at Hanover or at Dinwiddie.
#3 Dinwiddie at #2 Hanover
Hello again! For the fourth straight season, the Generals and Hawks meet in Division 5 playoff action. Dinwiddie has won two of the previous three, including last year's 28-21 Regional Title win at Hanover, so winning on the road is nothing new for the Generals. Darius Hawkins and Drakar Harvell (a name Hawk fans will remember from 2010) have consistently ranked as two of the top ten receivers in the Central Region this year, thanks to the strong arm of quarterback Bryan Finney. The Generals played a monster early season schedule, losing to Varina, Highland Springs and Meadowbrook en route to a 2-4 start before winning four straight to clinch their playoff berth. The Generals always bring playmakers and athletes and are playing their best ball of the season right now.
Hanover continues to be a team fighting for everything it gets in 2011. The season changed dramatically when Sam Rogers when down with an elbow injury against Henrico, handing the reins of the offense to Andrew Knizner, who has led the Hawks to a 4-1 record. Rogers returned in a slotback role the past two weeks so the Hawks can take advantage of his athleticism and north/south running ability. L.J. Jones, one of the area's leading rushers in 2011, needs at least 20 carries tonight, and triple-digit rushing numbers would go a long way to help the Hanover cause. Kicker Matt Palmen may play a role, a la the Henrico game, come crunch time.
BOTTOM LINE: Familiarity does not breed contempt here. Hanover is grateful for homefield advantage, but remembers 51 weeks ago when these same Generals ended their dreams of a third trip to the State Semifinals on Hanover turf. These hot 2011 Generals are capable of doing the same. But Coach Josh Just and staff have had two games and three weeks of practices to figure out how best to use Sam Rogers at slotback. Execution of that wrinkle may be the difference in tonight's game.
TICKETS: $8.00, available at the gates at Atlee and Hanover.
NOTE: Kickoff for playoff games is 30 minutes later than regular season games, at 7:30pm, and bundle up! Temperatures will drop into the 30s for the second straight Friday night.
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